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French Version


Airport shut, at least 10 injured as mobs do battle in capital

At least 10 people, including two soldiers, were injured on Wednesday after a General Labor Confederation (GLC) strike which was meant to protest the government's economic policies turned violent, leading to the blocking of roads and armed clashes in several parts of Beirut.

One of the roads blocked by protesters was the main artery to the capital's international airport, causing dozens of flights to be delayed or cancelled. Three arrivals came in in the early afternoon, but a statement from the national carrier, Middle East Airlines, announced that all departures between midnight Wednesday and noon Thursday had been scrubbed. About 200 passengers were stranded at the airport by early evening, an aviation source told AFP.

Some arriving travelers could be seen walking outside the airport, past burning tires and mounds of earth, as they tried to make their way home.

Security sources told The Daily Star that in addition to the berms, opposition supporters have started setting up tents in the vicinity of the airport in a bid to stage an open sit-in similar to the one in place in Downtown Beirut since December 2006.

The 10 people were injured during clashes between Hizbullah and Amal supporters and pro-government Future Movement supporters in the Beirut areas of Corniche al-Mazraa, Ras al-Nabeh, Wata al-Mosseitbeh, Cola, and others.

The sources accused opposition supporters of sparking the clashes by "raiding" the Afif al-Tibi area in the Sunni-dominated neighborhood of Tariq al-Jdideh. Government supporters responded to the "raid" by throwing rocks, while Lebanese Army soldiers deployed in the area and set up a human chain to separate the mobs.

At least two of the troops were injured in the effort.

The security sources also said that a Future Movement office in the Ras al-Nabeh neighborhood was hit by several rocket-propelled grenades. Three Future supporters were injured as a result of the attack.

However, Hizbullah's Al-Manar television accused militants affiliated with the Future Movement of hiding in the office and opening fire on demonstrators, adding that army soldiers broke into the office and arrested the militants.

Also in Ras al-Nabeh, army soldiers reportedly managed to arrest two snipers affiliated with the opposition. The snipers were positioned on the roof of the Mouazen Building, according to security reports.

Security reports added that opposition supporters have also attacked a Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) office in the Cola area.

The opposition supporters have managed to break in into the office before the army interfered and evacuated it.

At least four journalists - apparently from media outlets sympathetic to both the government and the opposition - were also injured when they were attacked as they tried to cover the clashes.

Beirut 08-05-2008
Redaction
The Daily Star



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